What’s the Best Response to a Compliment When You Don’t Think You Deserve It?

After a busy day of work, my husband took the initiative to ask if I wanted to go out somewhere, and we happily agreed to visit our favorite cafe. He arranged for family to watch the kids so I wouldn’t have to stress about babysitting. While there, I told him how thoughtful it was of him to treat me so wonderfully. As he drove us back home, I looked over at him with a smile and said, “Thank you so much for the coffee!”

Later that night as we got the kids ready for bed, my husband did  his usual duties of brushing their teeth and preparing their nightly movie. Even though he does this every day, I still gave him a kiss on the cheek and told him he was kind to do this, so that I could get ready for bed myself.

After all this thanking, my husband smiled and returned the gesture: “Thank you for being my wife.”

Romantic? Very! It is very good for any couple to be thankful for their partner. But gratitude like this did not always flow so easily through our relationship. It wasn’t that we took each other for granted, rather, both of us had trouble accepting compliments.

We both had self-esteem issues and did not believe it when we were told we did something right. Whenever I told him how hard he worked, he would rebuff it, saying, “No, you know I’m lazy!” And in turn, I turned down compliments on my looks. When he told me I was beautiful, I would respond with, “Are you kidding me? I have bags under my eyes, and I need to lose weight!”

While we thought we were being realistic about ourselves, our deflection of the other’s kind words was actually damaging. This happened every single time. It soon reached a point where my husband had had enough. “It upsets me to see you put yourself down all the time,” he confided in me when I again shot down his compliment. “Why can’t you accept that I love who you are?”

I realized that rejecting a compliment wasn’t about being humble, or even about thinking little of myself: It was a sign that I didn’t trust the love he was expressing. By rejecting his expressions of positive affirmation, I was in turn rejecting any love he was trying to share with me. This lead us both to realize how much rejecting compliments from one another was hurting us, rather than helping.

Once we came to this conclusion, we decided to never deny a compliment or expression of gratitude ever again. No matter how silly, serious, or outlandish it felt, we would accept any and all compliments. I can say that giving and receiving compliments has given our marriage new positivity I did not know it needed. We felt happy when the compliments we gave were accepted, because it felt like we ourselves were being accepted. We are both more grateful, and our newfound self-confidence helps us to lift each other up. This encouragement feeds the love we have for one another, giving our marriage what it needs to last a very long time.

It took a lot of getting used to at first, but now our love is growing in little ways that continue to make us stronger as a couple. If my husband and I learned to accept that we are worthy of love as individuals, then we can accept that our marriage is worthy of love as well.

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